I struggle with racism. I am embarrassed by my past and what I carry forward. I’d like to say I’m not a racist, but having grown up in a racist society, who am I kidding?
I consciously fight racism and try to greet each person or situation with a positive intent, yet there are fleeting thoughts from years of racist programming. Whether it’s memories from a TV comedy skit where the black man answers “yessa massa” to the white man; or of living in New York and having friends’ parents say “lock your doors” as we drove through black neighborhoods; or another parent saying put your hands over your necklaces as we walked the streets; or another telling me I looked like a nigger woman from the fields when I wore a bandanna.
My parents were never overtly racist although it was all around us. Growing up, we lived in a white neighborhood on Long Island and had no black friends. There was one black kid in my middle school and just a hand full in high school. My exposure to people of other races was limited and fear and racism were subtly and not so subtly imposed. We were told the Hispanic families that lived in the next town over were dirty “spics”. I would look at people of color and try to imagine what their lives were like. I was curious, though recognized my people are different than your people.
My father had an employee who was a Chinese immigrant, a widow and single parent. She and her son would join us on holidays and other events; they would always bring exotic foods. We loved them. But again they were different, they looked different, smelled different, cooked different. I wasn’t taught different was bad, but there were subtle social queues that implied different didn’t belong in the same way that our white friends did.
Of course, as I became more independent and explored the world, I could see the limited perspective I had grown up in. If not conscious, we can become victims of our cultures and limit our opportunities for love. And while I now intentionally fight racism, my childhood memories still linger, and I am ashamed of them. I know I am not alone in this.
There is a meme “Never be defined by your past. It was just a lesson, not a life sentence.” Yeah, I’m trying.
Every culture has odd beliefs that have evolved for different reasons. One of ours is the concept that a woman’s worth is tied heavily to her looks. We have billion dollar industries perpetuating this notion. Think about it, women paint their faces because they’re taught that their natural beauty isn’t enough. That she needs to attract a man by looking pretty. Where is the love in this action? Alicia Keys is being highlighted because she’s given up make up. This is news, this is what Americans care about, this is sad. (although good on Alicia Keys)
Question culture, question authority, question our motives.
In the wake of our president elect. I keep thinking about how we got here. How America decided that a very rude sexist, racist, xenophobic, bigot was the best choice for us. Beyond the issues with the electoral college and the democrats forgetting about the rural working class, we as a country have allowed for bad behavior to gestate and Trump is the manifestation. It didn’t happen overnight, it’s been a very long slow boil. Due in part because its’ profitable. Society makes money on fear, ego and laziness…
It takes diligence and discipline to stay morally correct, especially when so much of our culture is counter to it. Our natural tendency is to belong, and with that we often give up our social agency. It starts as little things, like commenting on what a person is wearing (especially a woman), or laughing at a movie that’s making fun of a fat person, disability, racial slur, punch in the face or murder. Because we are easily bored the media pushes our boundaries for profit. We pay to be surprised, shocked and scared.
So, what to do? Try not to buy into for profit schemes that don’t come from Love. This is tough, it means changing habits (but I gotta watch America’s Next Top Model…). We can at least try, and if we fail do so with eyes open. And when we see inappropriate conduct, recommend everyone be cool and rethink their actions. No vigilantes please. This gives us all a chance to check themselves. Our society allowed for bad behavior to evolve. It won’t change overnight especially if it is met with hostility. People can be idiots, remind them there are other options. Changing culture starts with awareness.
I’m going to start posting some of the “everyday” unfortunate cultural norms I’ve seen and been part of. I encourage you to do the same. Looking at sexism, racism, xenophobia, bigotry and more. I’m starting with sexism because we are taught first to be sexist.
Anything of value requires continual attention and care.
The day after the election I couldn’t get off the couch. I was devastated by the desperation for change that half my countrymen have, and the resulting election. The day after that I blamed those of us in our self-entitled liberal bubbles; for not knowing and caring for our rural neighbors.
Of late, I realize it’s a complicated mess and finger wagging is meeting this catastrophe with the same energy that created it. I’m ready to move forward. Starting with affirming what I value, my vision of the world I want to live in, and where I can effect change.
This is a working draft of my vision and living principles…
Vision: A joyous and compassionate world. To benefit society through conscious actions in support of social accountability.
*Daily Affirmations: With the awareness that I can only control myself; how I receive the world and what I give, I endeavor to always start from love and to:
- Love myself first so I can greet the world from a place of love.
- Show up; be present to the moment and circumstance.
- Pay attention; listen, see, and feel without judgement. See where there is love.
- Speak my truth; praise what is right, guide what is not. It is not my job to scold, smite, or bear false witness. (This is hard for my ego) (I am usually right) (See, I can’t yet let it go)
- Humor is important to the process of letting go.
- Seek the power of the conscsious collective; together we are unstoppable.
- Don’t attach to outcome; as I can only control myself.
From here I will find solutions to unite my fellow countrymen, end divides, to be kind and compassionate. I look forward with curiosity to the new friends I will make.
*I borrowed heavily from the wisdom of the Fourfold Way by Angelis Arrien
Cleaning the attic… this recording aired on 11/14/2010 as part of a BBC radio series titled Americana. Jonathan Raban interviewed Jonathan Cluts and I at the Microsoft Home. We were showing off smart connected technologies and how we might use them in the future.
Raban talks about privacy and the potential nightmare of surveillance. He asks, “Will your home report back to the FBI?” I responded “…We/Microsoft believes firmly is that the individual owns the right to their own information. We choose who to share it with and how to share it, so I don’t think the fact that its digital and potentially available means that everyone has access to it…” To which asks if we’ll be immune from the NSA… He pegged that one. I was optimistic.
We did realize that inventions are often used in ways never intended, and so stressed the importance of thinking about the long term implications of what we bring into the world.
In 2006 Raban wrote Surveillance
Being human isn’t easy. Few people appear to glide through life without physical, emotional or spiritual issue. For most of us, our wellbeing is dependent on a balance of systems, methods and luck, each changes throughout our lives and each is influenced by the other. The ones I find myself pondering the most are, our…
- Genes and DNA- the kit we are born with, our building blocks for physical and biological potential.
- Environment- including the way we were raised, diet/supplements/chemicals, technology, education, exercise, clothing, work, culture, community…
- Personal beliefs- how we view ourselves and humanity, our contribution and personal practices as well as our mental constructs. Our innate need to belong has us subscribe to belief systems that mold our thinking. Lest we forget, we make up culture and what we choose to be certain of.
- Life stage- at different phases of our lives we want and are capable of different things. Sometimes we want to ride the dragons…be the dragons…slay all the dragons…watch dragons being slayed…or don’t give a shit about dragons.
- Chemistry- everything we do relies on neurons communicating with one another in the brain by sending chemical or electrical messages. If there is a miscommunication, we may feel or be a putt away from the abyss.
Circumstance is also a factor- being in the right place at the wrong/right time for that bus, disease, lottery, war…
Even though some areas of wellbeing are out of our control, we are learning more everyday about how each of these systems work. Technology is playing a large role in helping our understanding and finding solutions. Technology has also put us in an experimental petri-dish as our drive for new discoveries continues to change our relationship with the world and each other.
Wellbeing takes discipline, consciousness and Luck. Be well!
This was adapted from an earlier story Positively Depressed.
It’s time to shift things from Nay to Yay! Let’s celebrate what’s right and spread the love.
The top best things about our 2016 society are:
- Connection::: and access to loved ones, information, art, culture, music, science across the globe (and skies) in real-time… brings joy.
- Globalization::: seeing and experiencing other cultures, lifestyles and perspectives. The diversity of the world is so darned interesting.
- Conversations::: we are having conversations about tough and once taboo topics. While many are heated, we are at the very least acknowledging them.
- Empowerment::: with focus, resources and drive, almost anything seems possible.
- Collaboration::: genius creators are putting their talents together to build a beautiful future.
- Community::: there are endless communities to engage with, become part of, and enjoy.
- Sciences::: advancements have us understanding more about nature, space, time, and being human.
- Technology::: innovations enable us to make and do just about anything (in any size, anywhere).
- The Cuteness::: with all the animal and kid videos to enjoy.
- Autonomy::: we are questioning authority, untethering from old belief systems and making informed independent decisions.
Yeah, it’s US centric- cause that’s where I live. I would have liked to put #10 higher on the list, although this great trend is still forming…
This list is updated from last year.
- Engagement::: We have the technology to solve most of society’s big problems. We’re missing the will to engage; due in some part to narcotizing dysfunction.
- Our Environment::: Climate change, global warming, pollution, destruction of natural habitats, diminishing resources… exasperated by politics. Only Four in ten Americans think the people can convince Congress to pass legislation to reduce global warming. Here is one obstacle.
- Culture::: We are media driven, driving us to want and have more. It also divides us and encourages an “us vs them” outraged mentality. In example…
- Trump::: We have manifested a sexist rude charade for president.
- Misnomers::: For example feminism and patriotism. The first example is often used as a hateful statement. The second is often used in defiance against an opposing view, claiming exclusivity in their love for our country.
- Access:: Our 24/7 access to digital life and non-life, obscures our focus and diverts our attention from the physical here and now.
- These are learned beliefs and behaviors; please unlearn them.
- Inequality::: Civil rights, education, ethnicity, gender, immigration, income, lifestyle consumption, poverty, race, reproductive rights, sexual orientation, wealth…
- Healthcare::: Cost, access, for profit systems… Don’t care for our ill.
- Education::: Archaic systems, cultural irrelevancy, accessibility, differing expectations…
- Homelessness::: It’s plain Sad, Sad, Sad.
- Overpopulation:: Too many people eating up too few resources.
- Fear::: Fear is a strategy and tactic. Fear takes us off course.
- Humans::: The majority of society’s problems are human made. We can be loving, generous, genius creators and also selfish, stubborn, lazy destroyers all in the same breath. We struggle with balancing our conflicting nature. We’re not all bad or all good, we’re flawed. Our need to belong has us align with belief systems and social structures that struggle in our newly global ever changing world. This too has divided us and conflicts with our agency in the world.
This list is clearly focused on our human flaws and in the weeds for some of them.
What are your top 10?
p.s.- Be both a feminist and patriot.
Gloria Steinem speaking in Seattle recently reminded us the definition of Feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. At some point, likely the 1970’s, feminism became a bad word. As a society we need to bring it back to its original intent and practice it.
In 2009 feminist and role model Jimmy Carter wrote an article “Losing my religion for equality”. The article describes his struggle and brake from the Southern Baptist church in support of human rights and equality. In it he writes:
“The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.”
With feminism there is no extremism, no racism, no sexism.
Our most violent societies are ones that don’t support feminism and actively oppress women. We are in the midst of a third world war with 65 countries involved including 667 Militias-guerrillas and separatist groups, leaving a numbing trail of death, destruction and millions of refugees without a nation or place. Clearly it will take more than feminism to bring about peace, although peace won’t happen without it.
The UN has a policy to include women in their peace keeping efforts believing “women and men experience conflict differently and therefore understand peace differently. Recognizing and integrating these differences – known as gender perspectives – into all aspects of UN peace operations, is essential for the success of the UN’s peacekeeping efforts”. When women have an equal say at the table along with other diversities we all benefit.
Please, when you see anti-feminism in action… call it out, respectfully. Without feminism there cannot be peace.